Privacy Concerns About UAVs

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With the U.S. Congress having ordered the FAA to proceed with integrating unmanned aircraft into civil airspace, the idea of using UAVs for domestic law enforcement has aircraft makers eager to create a promising new market. But UAV manufacturers should also expect backlash over worries that the eyes in the sky will give police agencies carte blanche for warrant-less snooping. Such concerns were highlighted today in an editorial published in the Washington Examiner, a free, conservative-leaning daily distributed in the nation’s capital.

The editorial, which can be read here, urges Congress to act to limit “inevitable abuses” from domestic uses of drones by law enforcement agencies. “Americans deserve a proper check on this new government power – and they deserve it now, before hundreds of drones are already circling our skies and matters truly get out of hand,” the Examiner argues.

Wes Bush, the CEO of UAV-maker Northrop Grumman, warned last month in a speech to the Aero Club of Washington that industry should not ignore concerns about privacy. “I don’t think those concerns should be dismissed,” he said. He argues that U.S. privacy laws could be applied just as effectively to UAVs as they currently are to manned aircraft. But from the looks of the Examiner editorial, industry has a lot more convincing to do.

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